Photographic Breadcrumbs: the Illusion of Arrival, by James Scarborough

If the body of work is a map, these as-yet unrealised photographs offer a prospect of place. Map-wise, these photographs offer a prospect of still wandering.

The work rewards careful inspection, if not introspection. Though its subjects are everyday and recognisable, the work’s emotional coordinates are not obvious. What matters at first are the visual hints between each photograph. A path. That’s why the work doesn’t articulate things. It reveals the quest for a sense of place that the navigation of each set of images yields.

The work, a puzzle. Take disparate pieces. Assume they form a whole. Put them back together.  The final image is not apparent at any stage of the series, but it is part of an organic whole. Once assimilated, once adapted, one environmental element leads to another. One piece, in fact, is a puzzle. An arrangement of 4 images by 4 images. With effort, they can be rearranged to form a single whole image. Something new built up from fragments of what was there before. A great metaphor for life.

This synthesis and reconstruction of photographic moments happens automatically. In the flick of a synapse. On a conscious level, does anyone really process the huge number of things one sees each day? An immigrant does. Adaptation to a new environment requires conscious thought, reflection, and a piecing together. This focused awareness of site-specific subject matter – on native flora and fauna like plants, birds, rocks – describes these transitional moments. New things, new places, new situations – a new environment. The work allows the photographer to make sense of this new environment. It’s an ongoing process, this assimilation, these filters, this evaluation and reevaluation.

Though the works’ fragments map a new experience, the photographer decentralizes the process. She doesn’t present her adaptive experience, she offers the viewer the tools, the means, the process with which to do so as per one’s own itinerary. To each her separate Why. Each individual image, so stark, so bare, so denuded of context, functions like the fairy tale breadcrumbs with which a brother and sister made their way back home. The difference here – these photographic breadcrumbs lead the photographer, the immigrant – one and the same – to a provisional place to call home.

Interview by James Scarborough: https://bit.ly/2CBPBEP